Honky Château

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Honky Château
Elton John - Honky Château.jpg
Studio album by
Released19 May 1972 (1972-05-19)
RecordedJanuary 1972
StudioChâteau d'Hérouville, Hérouville, France; mixed at Trident, London
GenreRock, pop
LabelUni (US), DJM (UK)
ProducerGus Dudgeon
Elton John chronology
Madman Across the Water
Honky Château
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
Singles from Honky Château
  1. "Rocket Man"
    Released: 17 April 1972
  2. "Honky Cat"
    Released: 31 July 1972

Honky Château is the fifth studio album by English musician Elton John. It was released in 1972, and was titled after the 18th century French chateau where it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville. The album reached number one in the US, the first of John's seven consecutive US number one albums.[1]

Two singles were released worldwide from Honky Château, "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat". A third single, "Hercules", was prepared for release, but this never materialised.[2] This was the final Elton John album on the Uni label in the US and Canada before MCA consolidated all of its various labels under the MCA brand. This and John's earlier Uni albums were later reissued on MCA Records.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 357 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was revised to number 359 in 2012, and raised to number 251 in a 2020 list.[3] It was certified gold in July 1972 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.


Honky Château was the first in Elton John's streak of chart-topping albums in the US, which culminated with 1975's Rock of the Westies. It was also the first studio album to feature John's road band of Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, along with new member Davey Johnstone on electric and acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments, as the core group of musicians. Previously, the record label insisted that John use them for only one track each on Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water; the rest of the songs on those two albums were performed by session players. Johnstone had played acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar on Madman Across the Water, but on Honky Chateau, he would be invited to join permanently as a full-band member and he extended his contributions to electric guitar, banjo, slide guitar and backing vocals.

The opening track "Honky Cat" is a New Orleans funk track reminiscent of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, and features a four-piece horn section arranged by producer Gus Dudgeon. Also of note is the on-record debut of the backing vocal combination of Johnstone, Murray and Olsson, who first added what would soon become their "trademark" sound to "Rocket Man". The trio's unique approach to arranging their backing vocal tracks would be a fixture on John's singles and albums for the next several years.

In 1995, Dudgeon remastered the album, adding only an uptempo, piano-based, rock and roll version of "Slave", that was originally sidelined in favour of the slower, guitar-based version on the original LP. This alternate version was originally due to be released as the B-Side to the ultimately unreleased "Hercules" single.[2] It didn't get an official release until it appeared on the compilation Rare Masters in 1992.

In February 2023, John announced the album would be reissued in a 50th Anniversary edition on LP (two versions: double LP set and single LP on gold vinyl) and 2-CDs. The double LP and 2-CD configurations include outtakes from the original session tapes. The 2CD format additionally contains eight live recordings from the Royal Festival Hall show in 1972.[4]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideA−[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[7]

Critical appraisal[edit]

Critically, Honky Château is regarded as one of John's finest records. Jon Landau of Rolling Stone approved the original LP as "a rich, warm, satisfying album that stands head and shoulders above the morass of current releases".[8] In the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn hailed the music as innovative and Taupin's lyrics as humorous, ironic and satirical.[9]

Retrospective reviews of Honky Château have also been mostly positive. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote of the album that it "plays as the most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote," and characterized it as being an eclectic collection of "ballads, rockers, blues, country-rock, and soul songs.".[5] Chris Roberts also praised the album in a review for BBC, saying that the album "stands up as one of [John's] most eclectic, durable collections".[10]

Chart success[edit]

Honky Château became the first of a string of albums by Elton John to hit No. 1 in the Billboard Charts in the US. In Canada, the album peaked at No. 3 on the RPM 100 Top Albums Chart, reaching this position on 29 July 1972, dropping two places to No. 5, then returning to No. 3 for a further twelve consecutive weeks before falling to No. 9 on 4 November of the same year.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Side one
1."Honky Cat"5:12
3."I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself"3:35
4."Susie (Dramas)"3:25
5."Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)"4:40
Side two
4."Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"5:01
Total length:45:15
Bonus tracks (1995 Mercury and 1996 Rocket reissue)
11."Slave" (Alternate version)2:53
Total length:48:08
  • The album, including the bonus track, was also released in 2004 as a "Hybrid SACD" remixed in 5.1.


Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.


  • Producer – Gus Dudgeon
  • Engineer – Ken Scott
  • Remastering – Tony Cousins
  • Cover photo – Ed Caraeff
  • Liner notes – John Tobler
  • SACD Authoring – Gus Skinas
  • Digital transfers – Ricky Graham
  • Surround mix – Greg Penny



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[24] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[26] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Elton John Biography: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Rock Hall. Retrieved 3 December 2014
  2. ^ a b John, Elton (1992). Rare Masters (Audio CD sleevenotes). Rocket Records.
  3. ^ "Honky Chateau ranked 251st greatest album by Rolling Stone magazine". Rolling Stone. 22 September 2020. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  4. ^ Honky Château 50th Anniversary Reissue Announced
  5. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Honky Château – Elton John". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: J". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 27 February 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  7. ^ "Elton John: Album Guide | Rolling Stone Music". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  8. ^ Landau, Jon (17 August 1972). "Elton John: Honky Chateau". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 19 March 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  9. ^ Hilburn, Robert (2 July 1972). "Contenders at Halfway Point". Los Angeles Times. p. 370. Retrieved 5 April 2022 – via Newspapers.com (subscription required).
  10. ^ Roberts, Chris (2010). "Review of Elton John - Honky Château". BBC. Retrieved 26 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4183". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Elton John – Honky Château" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  14. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Elton John – Honky Château" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  15. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e Dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 23 February 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Album". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Elton John".
  16. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  17. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Elton John – Honky Château". Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  18. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  19. ^ "Elton John | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  20. ^ "Elton Johnrefname=Billboard 200 Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  21. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1972". billboard.biz. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  23. ^ "Top Pop Albums of 1973". billboard.biz. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  24. ^ "Elton John Australian Award". 20 February 2023.
  25. ^ "Golden Moments" (PDF). Cash Box. 19 May 1973. p. 54. Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  26. ^ "American album certifications – Elton John – Honky Chateau". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]